The NitrOlympX, always a special race of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship
Less than two weeks after the unfinished business at Tierp Arena, it’s time for the famous NitrOlympX at the Rico Anthes Quartermile of the HockenheimRing. Ida Zetterström (Top Fuel), Silvio Strauch (Top Methanol), Jan Ericsson (Pro Modified) and Jimmy Ålund (Pro Stock) are the current leaders, but it’s unlikely that all four drivers will still be leading their respective categories after the German round of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship.
The NitrOlympX at the Rico Anthes Quartermile of the HockenheimRing is the fourth round of the 2023 FIA European Drag Racing Championship. With the unique atmosphere of the Motodrome and the Night Show, the NitrOlympX always brings something special to the most prestigious drag racing championship in Europe. Rounds number two and three of the championship at Tierp Arena in June and August were seriously affected by rain and because the finals, and in some classes even the semifinals, had to be cancelled, no winners were crowned. Let’s hope for a better situation in Hockenheim and that the race can be concluded with the traditional winners ceremony in the VIP area of the German track.
With a first round win at the Summit Racing Equipment Internationals at Tierp Arena, Ida Zetterström extended her lead in the championship over Susanne Callin to 61 points. The Rune Fjeld Motorsport/Alandia Motorsport driver from Sweden claimed the victory at Santa Pod, won her round in June at Tierp, but was finally defeated for the first time this year in the semifinals two weeks ago at Tierp by still reigning champion Antti Horto.
Zetterström, who reset both sides of the European record at Santa Pod in May with 3.773 seconds at 321.01 mph, will only be happy with a win in Germany. That will give her a safe margin over the number two in the championship when the title race heads to Santa Pod for the final round.
Callin is the number two in the championship. The RF Motorsport/Slick Tricks Racing driver lost in the first round at both Tierp Arena events. To still have a fair chance to win the title, Callin will need a win at Hockenheim but that is far from unrealistic as she is the reigning Hockenheim Top Fuel champion after her win last year.
Antti Horto is the number three in the championship. As he announced before the start of the season, the reigning champion would only compete in the two championship races at Tierp Arena, thus the Finnish driver will be sadly missed at Hockenheim. Stig Neergaard is the current number four, 37 points behind Callin. That is less than two elimination round wins, so everything is still possible for the driver from Denmark, who missed the eliminations at Tierp two weeks ago.
Jndia Erbacher is not in the title race as she skipped the two Swedish rounds. But the Swiss driver proved her speed at Santa Pod in May and as Hockenheim is her home track and she will have numerous fans in the grandstands, she is absolutely a favourite to win the race. With every elimination round win, Erbacher will reduce the title chances of the three title contenders.
That everything can happen in drag racing, was once again proven by the Top Methanol class at Tierp. Linn Fløysvik was leading the championship and after her first FIA European Championship win at Santa Pod was undefeated this season.
But two weeks ago at Tierp the Funny Car driver from Norway ran into problems and lost her first round to Silvio Strauch. In the semifinals Tina Høst Nedregård, number one qualifier and quickest driver at Tierp, pulled a red light and Strauch collected another 20 points. Probably to his own surprise, as he is struggling with tyreshake almost every race, the German Engine Ghost driver is the leader with a 6-point advantage over Fløysvik when the championship heads to his home race at Hockenheim. Strauch was quick enough at the right moment and that is how you win rounds and in the end a championship.
Sandro Bellio is the number three in the championship. The reigning champion has been plagued by all sorts of problems this season and hasn’t even won one elimination round so far. The Belgian driver is 72 points behind leader Strauch and will need a win and an early exit of the numbers one and two to be able to go for a third consecutive title at the final round at Santa Pod.
Tony Bryntesson is the number four in the championship, only 15 points behind Bellio. The Swedish dragster driver proved his speed at Tierp with a 5.39 seconds ET in qualifying and will try to repeat that at Hockenheim.
Johnny Oksa impressed at his comeback at Tierp in June. The 2016 FIA European Top Methanol Funny Car champion will definitely try to prove his speed again in Germany. The NitrOlympX will be the first race in several years for Jürgen Nagel. It’s good to see the veteran Funny Car driver from Germany back in the field.
Jan Ericsson is the leader in Pro Modified, and the reigning champion extended is winning streak by reaching the semifinals at the Summit Racing Equipment Internationals, before the rain brought an early end to the eliminations. The driver from Sweden has a gap to the new number two, David Vegter, of 79 points.
Together with Ericsson, Vegter has been the quickest driver this season with 5.7-second runs, but hasn’t been so lucky in qualifying. The turning point came at the latest Tierp event when the Dutch driver defeated his closest rival, Bruno Bader, in the first round and also won his quarter final over multiple champion Michael Gullqvist. Vegter collected the same amount of points as Ericsson and took over the second spot in the championship from Bader, who is now 8 points behind the Dutchman.
Andres Arnover is the new number four in the title race after the Estonian driver surprised with a number one qualifying position at Tierp and a first round win. Arnover passed the two Dutch divers Michel Tooren and Marck Harteveld, who switched positions after Harteveld had an early exit at Tierp in the first round and Tooren was defeated in the second round. This is the top six in the championship and they will all be at Hockenheim to fight for more points.
None of the other entrants in Germany are directly in the race for the title, but can definitely surprise and ruin someone’s championship dreams. First in line is Mats Eriksson, the number eleven in the championship and 26 points behind Harteveld. With a good result at Hockenheim, the Swede can gain some positions in the championship. Roger Johansson was quick at Tierp and will be looking for more after he skipped the eliminations. Also from Sweden comes Peter Kunc with his new Camaro.
From Switzerland come Marcus Hilt and Peter Wacker, while Germany is represented by Norbert Kuno and Walter Strobel, both also entrants at round one at Santa Pod, and Dominik Reinhardt. Mogens Sørensen and Mike Reymond are from Denmark. Reymond, son of former Top Fuel driver Kim Reymond, was also on the entry list at Tierp in June, but had to postpone his Pro Modified debut until Hockenheim.
Last but not least there is of course Jean Dulamon. The Frenchman suffered severe engine damage early in the season and had to skip the first races of the championship. With 17 entrants for a 16-car ladder, qualifying will be interesting at least.
Because the Pro Stock category didn’t take part in the English round of the championship, and the races at Tierp in June and August had to be cancelled before the finals were run, the factory hot rod category hasn’t had a race winner so far this season. With two number one qualifying positions and undefeated so far in eliminations, multiple champion Jimmy Ålund is the leader with a 14-point advantage over Stefan Ernryd. But Ålund will not be the leader after Hockenheim as the Swede will not take part in the German round.
Ernryd proved his great form two weeks ago at Tierp with two round wins and will definitely be looking for more. Simon Ekengren is the number three, 45 points behind Ernryd. Ekengren surprised with his great ETs so far this season, but lost many points with a first round exit at Tierp.
Only one point behind Ekengren, Michael Malmgren is the number four in the championship. The veteran Pro Stock driver was struggling with traction problems at the second Tierp event and will be out for revenge at Hockenheim. Malmgren, the number two from last year, will need a good result to feature again in the title race.
The same is true for Robin Norén, the number five in the championship and only 3 points behind Malmgren. Norén skipped last year’s Hockenheim race after he debuted his new car in Sweden, but the Swede has good memories of the German track as he finished as the runner-up the last time he visited the NitrOlympX.
Qualifying for the NitrOlympX will start on Friday August 25th and will continue on Saturday August 26th . Eliminations will start on Sunday morning August 27th .
Text and photos Remco Scheelings